By John Miller (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Springfield, Mo. – Before he came to the plate in the bottom of the eighth, Spencer Greene found a way to calm his nerves.
“I have this scripture I read before every at-bat,” he said. “I read it and this calmness came over me. I’m about to cry right now. I just knew I was going to do it.”
With two outs in the eighth of a tie game, Crayton Henry was plunked. A few pitches later, Greene ripped a double into the right-center gap, scoring Henry and sending Mansfield to the Class 2 Final Four with a 3-2 win over New Covenant Academy on Wednesday night.
The Lions will look to defend their state championship May 28-29 in O’Fallon, Missouri. They’ll face Russellville on May 28th in the state semifinals.
“I’d like to give thanks to the Lord,” Greene said. “I saw Crayton get on, and I knew if (the pitcher) came out, I was gonna do it. I was due. I just had this calmness about me.”
The hit not only sent the Lions to state. It made Greene the all-time hits leader in Mansfield baseball history. The previous record of 183 hits was held 1992 graduate Barry Short.
“If you’re familiar at all with the Mansfield program, that’s a pretty prestigious deal,” Lions coach Joe Garrison said.
It’s been a whirlwind past 16 months for the Mansfield Lions baseball program. In January 2017, their longtime head coach, Doug Jones, passed away after battling brain cancer. That May, the Lions won the Class 2 state championship. Almost one year later, they’re back in the Final Four.
“I can’t describe my emotions. I don’t know how,” Greene said. “All I can say is, the Lord was with us, and I know Coach Jones is sitting up there enjoying every moment of this because this is his team and we did it again for him.”
Mansfield struggled offensively for most of the game. In the first four innings, the Lions went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 base runners. Twice they left the bases loaded. Despite so many chances to blow the game open, their lead was only 2-0.
“We were just pressing,” Garrison said. “In a situation like this, everybody wants to be ‘that guy.’ The problem was we were trying too hard to do it, and it was so hard to relax.”
New Covenant made a comeback. Ryan Rodgers doubled in a run in the fifth. Max Breite singled in the game-tying run in the sixth. The Warriors had chances in the seventh and eighth to grab the lead, but it didn’t happen. A steal of home plate was thwarted in the seventh, and a base runner was gunned out at home on a throw from centerfielder James Lansdown in the eighth.
Rodgers finished 2-for-4 with a double and triple. Breite went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles. Devin Kingery was 2-for-4 for Mansfield.
Mansfield 3, New Covenant Academy 2 (8)
NCA 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 2 6 1
MHS 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 3 5 0
WP – Jordan Evans
LP – Tedd Fraser
NCA: Rodgers 2 (2B, 3B), Ramsey, Max Breite 2, Graham Breite (2B)
MHS: Henry, Kingery 2, Greene (2B), Lansdown